Trust Your People

Beau Dobbin
July 1, 2023

When it comes to working in teams, having the right perspective can make a massive change in the quality of our work and our personal fulfillment.

There are often two ways that people will view leaders: as a protector of the team, or as a task-delegator. In reality, it is important to find the right balance between these two ideas.

The protective attitude may often find you hitting your personal capacity before you can truly reach your potential—wanting to do more, but being unable. With some small shifts, however, it is possible to activate more of your potential and do higher-impact work.

Instead of protecting a team… Expose them to reality and ask for their support in making decisions.

For example, as many developers know: some stakeholders, like marketing departments, can be spontaneous and fluid. The process of a monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly sprint does not serve their fast-paced needs. A protector might either:

  • Take on all of those spontaneous needs, or
  • Ask those stakeholders to conform to the process of the dev team, or
  • Refuse their requests altogether.

But these approaches are overwhelming or inflexible. Rather, you should allow the team to experience a taste of the chaos that is occurring within the company– although it may be frustrating, giving your team this information can help you delegate tasks more effectively.

After doing this, you will have a team of people with more awareness of the nature of your business. Then, you can say “Now that we know what the business needs, what can we do to satisfy their needs and minimize our frustration?”

Having multiple brains for one problem can be a great benefit in coming up with multiple ideas, and whittling down a brilliant, reasonable solution from there.

Don’t protect the team. Trust them. And activate their creativity.

There are also a few ways to handle task management throughout the lifespan of a project. As teams grow, they should be able to produce more benefit to the company. There will be more tasks and projects for the team to take care of. Leaders might be tempted to deliver and delegate beautifully refined and clear tasks to the team.

But, with a team of more than a few people, there is not enough time for a single person to clarify every task. And, even with the best effort, there is often the need for further clarification, which will mean that the leader needs to continually stay up-to-date with many details of multiple projects.

In some of the teams that I have worked on, we have a specific role of “Feature Leads”. We delegate as much ownership of new projects to them as possible, and have them prepare a “Shaping Document” to clarify the problem, goals, timeline, and needs of the given project. They will then break the project down into tasks that can be developed and shipped independently. They will also take on some of the tasks and ask for support from other developers.

This solution allows developers to gain experience with cross-team collaboration, high-level abstract thinking, and other essential skills for modern software development. With these skills and the right attitude, your team can activate more potential.

Don’t just delegate tasks to your team. Trust them. And empower them to take ownership of important, high impact projects. By trusting my people, I’m always delighted by how well they do when I give them the opportunity to do more. They grow. I grow. The business thrives. Everybody wins.

I urge you to trust your people, too.